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Obama discusses Afghan war with Karzai in video call

US President Barack Obama held a video call with Afghan head of state Hamid Karzai to discuss the war on the Taliban and progress in eradicating corruption, the Kabul government said today.

world Updated: Mar 16, 2010 18:48 IST

US President Barack Obama held a video call with Afghan head of state Hamid Karzai to discuss the war on the Taliban and progress in eradicating corruption, the Kabul government said on Tuesday.

In the Monday "teleconference" which lasted more than an hour, Obama reaffirmed "US long-term commitment for a prosperous and stable Afghanistan," Karzai's office said in a statement.

Karzai's government depends on the support of Washington and other Western allies in the battle against insurgents destabilising much of the country through shadow administrations and connections with drug traffickers.

The United States and NATO have more than 121,000 troops in Afghanistan, set to rise to 150,000 by August as part of a revamped strategy to reverse the Taliban momentum, particularly in the south, and hasten an end to the war.

Obama and Karzai discussed Afghan efforts at reconciling Taliban fighters, a key part of Kabul's plan to draw low and mid-level insurgent gunmen back to the government side with promises of jobs and cash.

"President Karzai briefed the US president on Afghanistan's efforts for acceleration of the peace and reconciliation process, which President Obama welcomed and declared support (for)," the statement said.

"Both sides agreed on steps and measures for the follow-up on the commitments made in the London Conference in different areas including security, governance, peace and reconciliation, corruption, transparent elections and regional cooperation," it said.

Karzai has pledged action on a range of issues that have been of concern to his international backers, including endemic corruption and rigged elections.

The international community has in turn promised to bankroll the training of Afghan security forces, so Karzai can meet a promise to take over responsibility for the country's security within five years.

The statement from his office said Karzai had raised the issue of "war victims and those who suffered in the suicide bombings". Most civilian casualties are, according to the United Nations, caused by Taliban attacks.

Karzai also spoke of "proxy wars between other countries," the statement said, in a reference to fears of animosity between India and Pakistan, and Iran and the United States, being played out on Afghan soil.

"This is a blanket message to everyone, not only India and Pakistan -- Afghanistan is at a very important juncture of its history, it has happened to us in the past whereby we have been destroyed by proxy wars and we do not want that to be repeated," Karzai's spokesman Waheed Omar told reporters.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Kabul last week and accused the United States of playing a double game in Afghanistan and mocked US Defense Secretary Robert Gates during overlapping visits.

Despite a series of reported Taliban arrests in Pakistan, scepticism has remained on whether its powerful intelligence agency has made a clean break with Islamist hardliners traditionally given support.

Pakistan confirmed the arrest of Mullah Adbul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban military commander reportedly in contact with Afghan government officials.

But Karzai's spokesman Waheed Omar told reporters on Tuesday that there had been no contact between the Afghan government and Baradar.

"There was no direct contact between the government of Afghanistan and Mullah Baradar," he said.

Karzai's government has asked Islamabad to extradite Baradar but some analysts suggest he could become a bargaining chip for a Pakistan determined to have a say in Afghanistan's future.

Karzai has welcomed Islamabad's offers of support for Afghan reconciliation, saying Pakistan "has a significantly important role to play".